If you want to learn Japanese, most people would say “go to Tokyo,” but what if you want to learn Japanese from home? How can you get the oomph of traveling to Japan without leaving your living room? Those who learn languages for a living (diplomats, spies, etc.) already know the answer. They dive deep into a language and stay submerged as long as they can. Let’s take a look.
1. Pick a core Japanese curriculum and work with it every day
Most Japanese schools use the “Minna no Nihongo” series (“Japanese for Everyone”). The books come in both kanji and Latin characters. We recommend the kanji version. You’re going to have to tackle kanji at some point while learning Japanese, so you may as well do it from the start. Also, working on characters gives you an artistic outlet in parallel with the academics. If you’re a beginner, buy book 1. If you’re not a beginner, you’re probably already familiar with these books. You’ll find lots of videos online that explain the various lessons.
The pros spend 4-5 hours working with their chosen curriculum each day: 2-3 hours in the morning and 2-3 hours in the afternoon. You can break this into smaller chunks or spend fewer hours if you want. You should plan to spend about half your study time on revision/review and the other half on new material. And you have to work on it every day. Agreed? Good.
Now let’s talk about the rest of your time. This is the real secret to learning Japanese at home successfully. You need to pick up the sound of the language, absorb Japanese customs, and force your brain to switch to thinking in Japanese as fast as you can (at least some of the time). So immerse yourself in Japanese language and culture.
2. Watch anime, movies, and TV in Japanese
You’re allowed English subtitles, but if you find yourself reading instead of listening, switch them off. It’s better to absorb the sounds of the language even if you don’t understand. At some point, turning on subtitles in Japanese will help you pick up new characters and see how things you’re hearing are written. Watch with a pen and paper in hand. Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, has a collection of videos they’ve put together for school children, in addition to their normal programming.
3. Listen to Japanese radio, music, and podcasts
Keep your surroundings in Japanese as much as possible. There are thousands of radio stations, lots of great music, and plenty of podcasts you can listen to while exercising, cooking, or taking a bath. This is your “down time” so don’t push yourself to understand every word.
4. Cook Japanese food
Food is at the heart of Japanese culture. Sharpen your knives, look for recipes online, order the ingredients to be delivered. Or why not use recipe videos in Japanese? (video search レシピ or 料理番組 for more options)
5. Make Japanese friends
At some point you need to speak Japanese to someone other than your cat. The sooner the better actually. That’s not too hard, even if you’re stuck at home. Download a language exchange app or use online forums to find Japanese people who want to improve their English. If you want a more formal arrangement, hire a Japanese teacher online.
Now you’re ready to learn Japanese from home. So what are you waiting for? 頑張ってください